Change the Narrative, Change the World - Define American

Change the Narrative,
Change the World

Our groundbreaking television research on
immigrant representation with the Norman Lear Center
is changing storytelling in Hollywood.


About the Report

Define American, along with the Norman Lear Center’s Media Impact Project at USC Annenberg and the Writers Guild Foundation, presents our second annual television impact study: Change the Narrative, Change the World: How Immigrant Representation on Television Moves Audiences to Action.

We looked at the portrayal of immigrant characters on 59 scripted television shows that aired last year and surveyed viewers on how three immigration storylines changed their willingness to take action in the real world on immigrants’ behalf.

Clips from Madam Secretary, Superstore and Orange Is the New Black‘s immigration storylines.

“This new data shows how the power of storytelling can engage audiences, shift mindsets, and move people into action.” —Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Emmy-nominated filmmaker

Key Findings

There’s still significant work needed to achieve more accurate representation across the entertainment industry:

TV shows with nuanced immigrant characters and immigration storylines can shift attitudes and inspire people to real-life action. Viewers who saw the immigration storyline were more comfortable meeting undocumented people, and more opposed to criminalizing undocumented immigrants.

Download the graphics

“Television and movies can expand our minds and expose us to people and experiences we may not have access to in real life.” —Erica Rosenthal, Norman Lear Center Director of Research

Get the one-pager
Read the full report

“We’re calling on creators in the entertainment industry to develop authentic immigrant characters and storylines, which empower viewers to take action.” —Jose Antonio Vargas

Watch the Launch

Our Change the Narrative, Change the World Launch presents the key findings from the report:

Hear from MacGyver showrunner Monica Macer, A Million Little Things writer Dr. Nikita Hamilton, and Superstore Creator and Executive Producer Justin Spitzer about their approach to creating television that entertains and pushes for change. They’re joined by Define American’s Associate Director of Research Sarah Lowe and moderated by Pulitzer-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas.

Tracking Immigrant Representation

In 2018, we collaborated with the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center’s Media Impact Project (MIP) for our first analysis of immigrant representation on scripted TV compared to the reality of the immigrant experience. Download a summary of the 2018 study or read the full report.

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